Before continuing Monday’s conversation, the events that have occurred over the last three days must be addressed. Let’s start with yesterday, when the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) announced their nominations for this year. Forgoing nominations for Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Matt Damon and Jennifer Lawrence, SAG threw Oscar predictors for a loop.
It’s important to note that the SAG awards is the only major awards show of the season in which actors nominate other actors. Films themselves are not nominated, but rather ensembles and individual actors. The SAG Awards are also notorious for big surprises—nobody knows how Naomi Watts managed a nom for St. Vincent last year.
That being said, the race has definitely gotten more interesting. Along with the SAG nominations, the reviews for Joy came in on Monday. With Indiewire calling the film, “David O. Russell’s least memorable,” Joy no longer stands a chance at a Best Picture nom. The Academy has a soft spot for Jennifer Lawrence,however, so her performance stands as the film’s lone chance for a nomination.
As mentioned last week, the Academy has a long history of refusal to nominate African-American actors and directors. The Academy’s diversity problem doesn’t pertain only to race. There is zero chance a woman will be nominated for directing this year, reflecting a fundamental problem in Hollywood. According to a new study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, only 7 percent of the top 250 grossing movies from the past 17 years were directed by women. There’s not even a long-shot female candidate for Best Director this year, whereas last year saw maybe two (Angelina Jolie for Unbroken and Ava DuVernay for Selma, neither of which were actually nominated).
Perhaps more predictable than the lack of diversity among this year’s potential nominees, Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies is a contender in this year’s race. Spies features a male lead, almost no diversity in casting or crew, and is a movie we’ve seen from Spielberg time and time again. While his filmmaking is on point, the film lacks innovation and a fresh approach. It’s the only film this year so far that really, truly does not deserve its place on this list. (Last year, the same argument could have been made for The Theory of Everything or American Sniper.) But the Academy’s demographic has critics believing Spies will surely be nominated. Last year, Oscar voters were found to be 94 percent white, 76 percent men, and with an average age of 63. Of course they’ll vote for Spielberg’s film. His films—often about a bunch of old, white guys—have been nominated at least fifteen times before.
One film that could throw the whole race for a loop—and many are hoping it does—is J.J. Abrams’ yet to be screened Star Wars The Force Awakens. The first Star Wars, released in 1977, went on to be nominated for an Oscar, the only one in the series to do so. Yet many believe Abrams’ version carries the same fate. It’s the first to feature a female protagonist, with Daisy Ridley being talked about as the next Jennifer Lawrence. The film has already been announced as a contender on the Academy’s short list for visual effects, but its place in the major categories has yet to be seen.
Newcomers seem to be favored this year in the race for Best Actress. With Jennifer Lawrence and Cate Blanchett’s such recent wins (Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook and Blanchett for Blue Jasmine), it’s unlikely they’ll be on stage in February, despite their almost guaranteed chances for being nominated for Joy and Carol, respectively. Saoirse Ronan might see a similar fate. Ronan was nominated back in 2007 for her role in Atonement, and while reviews for her portrayal in Brooklyn have been strong, she’s no Brie Larson. Larson shocked many with her role in Room, and it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which she doesn’t win.
The Best Actor race doesn’t seem so sure. Will his role in The Revenant finally give Leo an Oscar? He seems to be the most likely, but Michael Fassbender could take it for Steve Jobs. Its box office flop will likely render any award for Jobs illegitimate to voters. With Michael Keaton going for Supporting Actor, there aren’t any other considerable opponents facing Leo.
If the Academy voters had any sense, they’d choose Matt Damon for The Martian. He carries the film, with his performance ranging from funny to suspenseful to downright heartbreaking. But the commercial success of The Martian makes his performance seem less artistic than, say, getting partially eaten by a bear and having maggots eat your flesh, as apparently Leo does in The Revenant. And while Johnny Depp and Eddie Redmayne are certainly in for another round at the Oscars, the negative critical reaction to Black Mass and The Danish Girl essentially guarantees they won’t win.
Best Supporting Actress gets even trickier. It all depends on the category Rooney Mara lands in for Carol. Right now, The Weinstein Company is campaigning for her in supporting, but the Academy could deem it category fraud, and vote for her in Best Actress. The same thing happened to Kate Winslet when she won for The Reader in 2009. She campaigned for Best Supporting, but wound up winning for Best Actress. If Mara ends up in the latter, this Best Supporting is most likely Jennifer Jason Leigh’s (The Hateful Eight).
Best Picture: Spotlight
Best Director: Ridley Scott/Tom McCarthy
Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio
Best Actress: Brie Larson
Best Supporting Actor: Michael Keaton
Best Supporting Actress: Rooney Mara
Best Original Screenplay: Spotlight
Best Adapted Screenplay: Brooklyn
Featured Image By Associated Press